St. Cecilia and Spirituality in Gardening

St. Cecilia is the patron saint of music, and gardens honoring her often have bird feeders, wind chimes and water features that make their own music.

Peeter_Sion_St_Cecilia-edit

Photo: posted by AndreasPraefcke

Saint Cecilia, oil on copper, by Peeter Sion (1649-1695)

Dorothy Gurney wrote a well known stanza that gardeners, who prefer to work in their gardens instead of attending church on Sunday mornings, sometimes quote:

The kiss of the sun for pardon
The song of the birds for mirth
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.

In the Judean/Christian as well as the Muslim religious traditions, gardens were traditionally viewed as symbols of paradise providing a foretaste of heaven. Ancient Muslim pleasure gardens always had fountains, as in arid regions water in an enclosed space allows the formation of an oasis environment where weary travelers can sit and be refreshed. It is not surprising that religious buildings associated with all faiths strive to have beautiful gardens.

St. Cecilia is the patron saint of music in the Christian faith, and so sometimes in sacred gardens there are statues of this saint or individual garden spaces that honor this remarkable woman. Gardens honoring her often have bird feeders, wind chimes and water features that make their own music. Plants with berries for the song birds and tubular flowers to accommodate hummingbirds are often included. Stands of grasses that rustle in the breeze adding their own characteristic music may also be featured.

It has been said that when the weather is cold, as in British gardens, there are paths for walking, and where the weather is hot as in desert areas of the world, there are more pools and places to lounge. However, despite minor design differences related to the weather, most religious faiths seem to use a garden as a metaphor for heaven.

Reference: Spiritual Gardening: Creating Sacred Space Outdoors (1999) by Peg Streep.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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